Seattle Culture

Reaching New Heights 

Scaling walls and overcoming fears of indoor climbing 

By Stephanie Russell February 22, 2024


As I walk into the Momentum Climbing Gym in SoDo, I’m nervous. I look around and think to myself, “Where are the ropes and harnesses?”

I walk to the front desk to state that I’m here for an “intro to climb” class. I receive a warm welcome and am asked to fill out a waiver and watch a video. I have a pit in my stomach because I still can’t find the ropes. 

 As the instructor starts the class, I raise my hand. “Where are the ropes for safety?” The very kind instructor says that I’m at a bouldering-only gym. No ropes. No harness. Just you and the wall. 

The instructor goes on to say, “First we’re going to learn the proper technique to fall.” As my mind heads for the door without looking back, my body decides it’s time for a challenge. I decide to stay. If we don’t push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, will we ever learn anything new? 

Two hours later, I’m hooked. 

I made it to the top of the wall. It was hard, scary, exciting, even terrifying. It provided me with such a challenge that I want more. I continue to boulder for a few weeks and decide to try indoor rock climbing, but this time in a location with ropes and taller walls. 

I join my friend Rachel at Edgeworks in Tacoma where the walls are much taller. I’m still nervous but Rachel has a calm about her which helps me relax. I rent a harness (yay for safety!) and shoes, and trek over to explore my climbing options. 

I choose a route up the wall that’s too challenging and quickly reconsider after taking two steps. I’m tired already. But, with each step I take, I become more comfortable on the wall. 

As I prepare to leave Edgeworks, I purchase my own harness and sign up for a membership. I’ve now been climbing for five months, and I’m eager for more every week. 

If you’re ready for a challenge, or want to dust off your climbing gear, there are a few places I recommend.

Edgeworks is my go-to gym, with locations in Ballard, Bellevue, and Tacoma. I’ve been to all three. Each one offers top rope, lead climbing, and bouldering. My six-year-old son has started to join me, which allows for some family fun. 

Another climbing gym I’ve explored is Vertical World in Seattle. I had the pleasure of meeting a few staff members for a tour and learning about their history. Vertical World was the first climbing gym in America and opened in 1987 on Elliot Ave. While I haven’t climbed there yet, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with locations in Lynnwood and Seattle. They offer top rope, lead climbing, and bouldering. I look forward to trying their routes. 

I recommend trying Cirque in Lacey, where you can enjoy top rope, lead climbing, and bouldering. It offers auto delay if you find yourself without a climbing partner. 

Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new this year. It doesn’t have to be rock climbing. Just take the chance to push yourself. You won’t regret it. 

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